Halfway through a five-year, $4.6 million grant to combat rose rosette disease in the U.S., a national research team is encouraged by the amount of information learned, but admits having a way to go before finding how to overcome the deadly problem.
Rose rosette was observed on wild roses as early as the 1940s, but it was not until 2011 that scientists definitively identified the cause as being from a new virus in the novel genus Emaravirus transmitted by the microscopic eriophyid mite, according to Dr. David Byrne, Professor of Rosa and Prunus Breeding and Genetics for Texas A&M AgriLife Research in College Station, TX, and Rose Rosette Disease Project director. Now the virus is killing commercial rose varieties.
Symptoms, which can show up as early as 17 days from exposure to infected mites or as many as 279 days after, include excessive thorniness, enlarged canes, malformed leaves, and flowers. Ultimately, the rose plant dies.
The team is pursuing three issues: the virus, the mite, and rose plant resistance to the disease, according to Byrne. And now they are soliciting help from people who like to grow roses as well.
“It is a citizen scientist approach,” says Dr. Kevin Ong, team member and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab in College Station. “We are trying to engage the people who have an interest in roses in general and give them the opportunity to participate in a national research project.”
Because of the many components to the problem, the research team represents not only many states but a variety of expertise from entomology to pathology to plant breeding.
“We’re still learning about the mite and the virus,” Byrne said. “And now we are seeing rose rosette not only on multiflora (wild) roses, which are considered invasive, but also on commercially cultivated roses.”
For more information on how the research team is continuing to monitor the disease, and how it is looking at new detection methods, check out the complete report from the research team on the AgriLife website.